Mechanisms underlying enhanced P2X receptor-mediated responses in the neuropathic pain state

Yong Chen, Guang Wen Li, Congying Wang, Yanping Gu, Li Yen Mae Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


P2X3 and P2X2/3 receptors in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) appear to participate in producing nociceptive responses after nerve injury. However, the mechanisms underlying the receptor-mediated nociception in the neuropathic state remain unclear. Using spared nerve injury (SNI) rats, we found that allodynic and nocifensive (flinch) behavioral responses developed after injury can be reversed by P2X receptor antagonists, indicating an involvement of P2X receptors. Immunocytochemical studies revealed that P2X3 receptors are expressed in small and medium but rarely in large DRG neurons of both normal and SNI rats. Thus, contrary to the conventional view that only large Aβ cells mediate allodynia, small and medium cells are intimately involved in P2X3 receptor-mediated allodynia. Measuring ATP levels in the subcutaneous space of the rat paw, we showed that ATP release does not change after SNI. On the other hand, the P2X receptor agonist, αβ-methylene ATP produces 3.5-fold larger flinch responses at a 8.0-fold lower dose. Thus, sensitization of P2X3 receptors rather than a change in ATP release is responsible for the neuropathic pain behaviors. We further demonstrated that sensitization of P2X3 receptors arises from an increase in receptor function. ATP-induced P2X3 receptor-mediated currents in DRG neurons is 2.5-fold larger after SNI. The expression of P2X3 receptors on the cell membrane is significantly enhanced while the total expression of P2X3 receptors remained unchanged. Thus, the enhancement of trafficking of P2X3 receptors is likely an important mechanism contributing to the increase in receptor function after nerve injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-48
Number of pages11
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Dec 15 2005


  • Dorsal root ganglion
  • Nerve injury
  • Neuropathic pain
  • P2X receptor
  • Receptor sensitization
  • Receptor trafficking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanisms underlying enhanced P2X receptor-mediated responses in the neuropathic pain state'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this